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Iraqis still feel insecure 10 years after Saddam's fall

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Exactly 10 years after U.S. tanks and armored personnel carriers entered the Firdous Square in central Baghdad and toppled the statue of former leader Saddam Hussein, Iraqis still suffer from the lack of security and stability nationwide due to endless political crises that engulfed the country.

Ten years on, when Iraqis recall the day of regime change, some are happy with cautious hope while many are sad with fears of an unknown future.

Firdous Square, now heavily armed by security forces, is no longer a symbol of Saddam, who was executed in December 2006. Dozens of blast walls surround two of Baghdad's major hotels Sheraton and Meridian.

Imaan Yousif, 46, a housewife, told Xinhua "I was happy when I saw the fall of Saddam statue 10 years ago, but now I realize it was the start of my people's misery."

"Back then, I saw the statue as a symbol of dictatorship and tyranny, but now I want to say the Americans and those who came with them are much worse than Saddam," Yousif said.

After the U.S.-led invasion, the Iraqi governing council once declared April 9 a national day, a move widely criticized by Iraqis and eventually fell through. However, some political parties and Iraqi factions insisted to name the day as the "Day of Liberation."

"Such decision by those who ruled Iraq by the power of the U.S. troops was shameful, how can anyone in the world be proud when he see foreign armored vehicles patrolling his streets and neighborhoods," Abdullah al-Aani, 60, a lawyer told Xinhua.

"Some see that under Saddam there was no chance to build a better life, but now they (Iraqis) have a chance. Only now they are traumatized and poorer, living in the threat of a simmering civil war," Aani said.

Many Iraqis who had celebrated the occupation are disappointed, realizing what they had thought to be hope was only illusion and that the Americans' promises were only a deception.

According to the Iraq Body Count project, a web-based effort to record civilian deaths resulting from the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq, about 120,000 civilians have been killed.

In March alone, more than 450 people, including 229 civilians, were killed and more than 1,100 others injured in the terrorist attacks and armed violence in Iraq, deputy UN spokesman Eduardo Del Buey said on Monday.

During the past 10 years, wide-spread violence made millions of Iraqis choose to flee their houses. "I left Iraq and stayed in Syria during the sectarian strife, because we lost hope for a better future, but things got worse in Syria and we were obliged to return," said Um Ahmed, a housewife, who returned to Baghdad last year after she and her family spent more than six years in Syria.

Um Ahmed and her family fled their neighborhood of Bayaa district in southern Baghdad and rent another house in another neighborhood because they can't guarantee the safety of their lives in Bayaa.

"Militias are still there in our original neighborhood. It is not safe, they will return to fight in any sectarian provocation," she said.

"My husband and my elder son are working very hard in the market to collect money for the rent and our living. It is a miserable life," she added.

Asked about her feeling at that moment when Saddam statue fell, she said "from the beginning I knew that those who celebrated the occupation would not be happy for a long time. No foreigners will bring you happiness."

"Saddam was a bad man, but he kept radical groups from fighting each other... Once the Americans took him away it became free for all to fight," she said.

In the meantime, some Iraqis believe that the fall of Saddam's statue was the beginning of a long way of building democracy in Iraq.

"Despite the hardships we have today, I feel grateful for the Americans who helped us to get rid of the dictatorship which ruled Iraq brutally for 35 years," said Hussein Saadoun, a college student told Xinhua.

"I still have hope for the future and I believe that building a free nation is a hard task and need sacrifices," the 23-year-old youth said.

For his part, Abu Nasir, 69, said people in Iraq have to forget about the past and learn the lessons so that they can enhance the national unity and build their own country to compensate the people for their pains.

"I call on all the Iraqis to reconcile and forget the past and offer good things to our offspring instead of leaving them fighting each other. We have to build a future without revenge," Abu Nasir said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130410/iraqis-still-feel-insecure-10-years-after-saddams-fall